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The Hawkeye wrestling coach discusses the state of his wrestling program entering Friday's 7 p.m. dual vs. the 11th-ranked Fighting Illini. Chad Leistikow

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Brody Grothus is back on the Iowa wrestling mat. He's even running the Carver-Hawkeye Arena stairs.

"Big step," said Grothus, who had the boot removed Tuesday from the ankle he injured at the Dec. 29-30 Midlands Championships.

But while the junior has been away from action, he's seen high-paced teammate Brandon Sorensen virtually cement himself as the No. 1-ranked Hawkeyes' 149-pound starter. Sorensen dominated then-No. 2 Josh Kindig of Oklahoma State, 6-1, on Sunday.

Grothus started the year in the lead in the three-way battle at 149 and ranked in the top 10 nationally. Now, he finds himself without a starting spot. He described the situation as bittersweet.

"I know I'd be doing the same thing he's doing," Grothus said. "But credit him for making this tough on Coach (Tom) Brands."

Sorensen is 22-2, one of those losses coming to Grothus at the Luther Open. But Sorensen is now No. 4 in the country at 149, forcing Grothus to think about other options.

"We've got two guys at that weight class that can win a national title," Grothus said. "That's kind of a tough spot to be in. I don't think the battle's over. I'm going to find my way into the lineup, one way or another."

Grothus, recovering from a bone chip and high sprain in his ankle, said Wednesday he would be open to a weight change. Two of Iowa's lowest-ranked starters are at the weights below and above 149 – Josh Dziewa (10th, 141 pounds) and Michael Kelly (12th, 157).

"I really don't know what I'm going to do or what they want me to do," Grothus said. "Obviously I'd love to be a 49-pounder, but I've got to be ready if anyone goes down at 41 or 57. I think I'm the best guy to fill those shoes from 41 to 57. It's tough to really talk about, what do you say?

"I'm ready to wrestle. I'll fight to get in this lineup and help this team win a national title wherever they need me."

Snubbed at 133? Iowa sophomore Cory Clark is a returning all-American, is 15-1 this year and won the Midlands Championships. But he's inexplicably ranked eighth at his weight by Amateur Wrestling News at 133 pounds.

In Friday's 7 p.m. home dual against Illinois, he's slated to face third-ranked Zane Richards – who Clark beat, 4-2, to win the Midlands.

Clark's only loss came to Ohio State's Johnni DiJulius, 7-5.

"That's what you get when you give a match away," Brands said of the rankings. "We won the Midlands and didn't really get rewarded for that. Hey, they can do what they want."

Dziewa confidence: At 141 on Sunday in Stillwater, Okla., Dziewa pulled out a third-period pin over Oklahoma State freshman Dean Heil while trailing 5-2. Dziewa (16-4) had lost three consecutive matches matches before that.

"We say it all the time, it is easier to go forward with success," Brands said. "You have to build that momentum, you build that confidence, or whatever it is. Then you come to work more ready. It's like there's more to live for, so to speak."

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